BITM – The Guardian – Amazon’s AbeBooks backs down after booksellers stage global protest

After almost 600 booksellers withdrew 3.5m books from the secondhand marketplace in support of countries dropped by the website, it apologises for a ‘bad decision’

An “extraordinary and unprecedented” global protest from antiquarian booksellers has forced the Amazon-owned secondhand marketplace AbeBooks to backtrack on its decision to pull out of several countries.

On Wednesday, president of ILAB Sally Burdon met AbeBooks chief executive Arkady Vitrouk to discuss the decision. It was agreed that booksellers in the four affected countries would be able to trade under current conditions until 31 December, with a solution to allow them to use the website indefinitely to follow.

In an email to ILAB’s 1,800 members, Burdon said that booksellers in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Russia and South Korea will “not be cut off this month nor in the future”. She said that Vitrouk had started by apologising for the behaviour of AbeBooks: “Arkady told us that Abe are very well aware of the mistake they have made. He stated that it was a ‘bad decision’ and that they deeply regret the hurt and harm they have caused. Arkady apologised a number of times … He is keen to continue to talk and we felt this was genuine. I should also add that the meeting took place at 4.30am for Arkady, such was the importance of it to Abe.”

She described the protest, which was sparked by British bookseller Simon Beattie, as “extraordinary and unprecedented”, and said that without it, “I know we would not have so easily got this excellent outcome”.

“It’s fantastic,” Beattie told the Guardian on Thursday. “In fact, the whole thing has been amazing: the result, yes, but also the phenomenal support, worldwide, that my fellow booksellers have shown for others in the trade. I know lots of people have been quoting ILAB’s motto, amor librorum nos unit, but it’s really true, and wonderfully uplifting.”

“Booksellers around the world have clearly demonstrated that virtues like selfless solidarity and support have a value beyond the interests and decisions of a company however large it may be,” they said on Thursday.

Burdon said that she would now be putting her books “back to work” on AbeBooks “in light of the very good resolution and goodwill” the marketplace has shown. This morning, Burdon’s bookshop, Asia Bookroom, had almost 10,000 titles back for sale on AbeBooks. Beattie confirmed that he also plans to reinstate his titles.

AbeBooks, which has headquarters in British Columbia, told the Guardian: “These sellers are an important part of our community and we are putting together a solution that will allow them to continue selling through AbeBooks. We are working directly with many of these sellers on the details and have appreciated their collaboration.”